*Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has responded to comments made by Rev. Jesse Jackson in the wake of his letter blasting LeBron James for deciding to leave the team and suit up for Miami.

Shortly after James made his announcement Thursday, Gilbert attacked the player in a letter posted on the team’s Web site. He called James’ decision “cowardly” and later told The Associated Press he believes James quit during a handful of Cavaliers playoff games.

“He has gotten a free pass,” Gilbert told the AP in a phone interview late Thursday night. “People have covered up for [James] for way too long. Tonight we saw who he really is.” Jackson said Gilbert’s comments were “mean, arrogant and presumptuous.”

Jackson said Gilbert’s comments were “mean, arrogant and presumptuous.”

“He speaks as an owner of LeBron and not the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers,” the reverend said in a release from his Chicago-based civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “His feelings of betrayal personify a slave master mentality. He sees LeBron as a runaway slave. This is an owner employee relationship — between business partners — and LeBron honored his contract.” Gilbert responded to Jackson’s comments on Monday.

“I strongly disagree with Rev. Jesse Jackson’s recent comments and we are not going to engage in any related discussion on it. Going forward, we’re very excited about the Cavaliers and the positive future of our region,” Gilbert said in a statement released by the Cavaliers.

Meanwhile, Jason Whitlock (pictured left), a sports columnist who seldom treads lightly on the topic of racism, has accused Jackson of playing the race card in his comments regarding Gilbert.

Writing for Fox Sports, Whitlock states:

Jesse has a constituency, a passionate group of idiots who believe the best way to combat white-wing political bigots such as Limbaugh and Hannity is with black-wing political bigotry . . . Yes, this is an attention grab by Rev. Jackson. He heard about ESPN’s impressive ratings for The Decision and, like a mafia don, wants to wet his beak. Why let Jim Gray and ESPN executives have all the fun exploiting LeBron’s naivete? . . .

Yep, it’s the card. LeBron James and his kiddie handlers screwed up, staging an image-damaging public-relations disaster, and now some African-Americans want to change the subject by changing the argument.

NBA owners and their $100-million contracts are slave owners and King James is Kunta Kinte escaping on the Underground Railroad to Miami’s Tootsie’s Cabaret, where he’ll make it rain.

It’s stupid. Dan Gilbert’s rant was certainly immature, but it wasn’t remotely racist. He sounded like a scorned lover, a guy who gave his heart to a relationship and found out on national TV that the alleged love of his life didn’t care about him at all. Gilbert vented. I give James credit for not responding.

Jackson and other African-Americans need to follow LeBron’s lead. We look foolish. We look hypocritical. We come across like people who have little genuine interest in seeing racial prejudice disappear and more like people who just want it to swing in our favor.

Rather than deal with the callous and classless way James departed his home state, some of us are trying to make this about race. It’s not.